Web tutorials help Bangladeshi kids get their maths right

For the time being, YouTube tutorials are being lauded as excellent initiatives that have the potential to revolutionise the style of learning in our country

Learning used to be confined to the walls of a classroom. But with the advent of technology and the access to new platforms, learning has been redefined.

Anyone can look up the quotient of complex numbers online. If reading seems a bit one-dimensional, then tutorial videos are a handy alternative.

Educational tutorials via YouTube channels have become very popular in Bangladesh, as they deliver easily understood lessons that cater to the needs of students.

Currently, several channels deliver curriculum-based tutorials for Primary School Certificate, Junior School Certificate, Secondary School Certificate, Higher Secondary Certificate students, university applicants and job seekers.

With the mission of providing world-class education for anyone, anywhere, the wildly popular Khan Academy was launched on YouTube by Bangladeshi-born American educator Salman Amin Khan on November 16, 2006.

As of July 22, the Khan Academy has more than 3.2 million subscribers, while Khan Academy Bangla, a sister channel, has also become popular for learning science and mathematics.

Chamok Hasan, a research assistant at the University of South Carolina and a former student of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, has a private YouTube channel under his own name where he delivers math lessons in interesting ways for students to solve easily.

The channel, which was created on September 29, 2011, has more than two million views and 61,588 subscribers also as of July 22.

Chamok, who has served on the Bangladesh Mathematical Olympiad team, said in an interview with Deutsche Welle that he set up the project to deliver math lessons through YouTube to make the subject enjoyable for everyone.

Chotpot Gonit, or quick maths, another of Chamok’s channels, has also gained popularity with students as his techniques help them to overcome their fear of maths, said ninth-grader Hridoy Mahmood.

Another educational channel, Classroom, a sister concern of university admission coaching centre Icon Plus, has also gained popularity among university admission seekers and HSC, SSC, and JSC students.

Classroom’s initiator, Wasi Ahmed Tutul, told Dhaka Tribune: “We started this lesson delivery system for people of all stages of life. Nowadays, since the internet is available to everyone, such a system can help us ensure proper education for people in both rural and urban areas.”

“We also have an aim to expand on our YouTube lessons since, due to many advantages, this trend is more acceptable to students,” he added.

In addition, 10 Minute School, Talenthut Institute Bangla, ShikkhaGuru, Live School BD, Dhaka Tutor, Tutorial World 20 and other Bangladeshi private channels also upload curriculum-based tutorials for students.

To teach a lesson

Some channels diversify, while others specialise. 10 Minute School, which is the largest among these channels with nearly 10 million views and over 165,000 subscribers and 1,740 videos, is an excellent example.

They teach English, maths, physics, biology, presentation, in a long list of topics.

One of their best features is that they announce in advance what they are going to discuss in their next video. They often hold live video sessions where they are able to cater to a limited number of queries.

But routinely providing an opportunity for their audience to engage them is their hallmark.

A social responsibility

10 Minute School’s Chief Operating Officer Samir Montazid told Dhaka Tribune: “We run our channels without taking any money from viewers. We are sponsored by the ICT Division and mobile phone operator Robi Axiata.”

Most educational channels are run on a voluntary basis and access to their videos is free for viewers. The authorities behind the channels manage their costs by receiving sponsorships from the government’s ICT Division and from corporate social responsibility funds of different businesses.

Not as good as a classroom

What this means is that students will not have to rush to coaching centres or tutors. They can look up their lessons online, and repeat them as many times as they need to comprehend, and all for free.

But there is a problem nonetheless, the absence of personal interaction. As convenient as the YouTube videos are, they do not provide the level of personal one-on-one interaction that a classroom does.

Several videos on Chamok Hasan’s channel had a plethora of queries, asking him to explain in detail various steps of the math.

What is taken for granted in a classroom is quite a luxury online. For an uploader to respond to all the queries diligently takes a lot of time, effort and energy.

Prof Syed Manzoorul Islam of Dhaka University, also a trustee board member of Transparency International Bangladesh, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Although digital education initiatives help both student and teachers, classroom orientation is a must. We have to work to improve classroom teaching and learning methods to make them more effective.”

But that has yet to deter the fans of YouTube tutorials.

Muddasir Faiyaz, an HSC student of science, told the Dhaka Tribune: “I found some unconventional strategies to solve math through some educational YouTube videos.

“The strategies make it easier to solve the problems. They save time and are a big help, regardless of being very unconventional,” he added.

Sixth-grader Tarisha Makhnum said she could not understand her teachers’ lectures in the classroom, but found the YouTube lessons more educational.

Even teachers have been won over by the phenomenon.

Schoolteacher Farzana Akhter said her students became more interested when she delivered more appealing and unconventional lesson techniques.

“I often take assistance from educational channels on YouTube to figure out the best way to appeal to their attention,” she added.

To bag a job

Quazi Muhammad Zakaria, who recently landed a post in the audit section of a private bank, said he was successful in preparing for the job interview process and the job examination with the help of YouTube tutorials.

Another recently hired recruit, Sarwar Alam, said: “YouTube can be useful for educational purposes, apart from its entertainment-based usage.”

Nahima Akhter, an NGO employee, also echoed his sentiments.

Several others agreed that this digital education trend helped them remain up-to-date with curriculum-based education.

Bangladesh’s foremost IT expert Mustafa Jabbar, who also the president of the Bangladesh Computer Samity and consultant to the ICT Division, told the Dhaka Tribune: “This is only the initial stage of e-education. We have to introduce an online interactive system for this sector so that students can more actively engage in digital education.

“Until we have introduced software-based teaching process among the masses, we cannot claim complete digitalisation of our education,” he added, and urged the government to ensure smooth internet connection across the country.

Prof Syed Monzurul said that teachers have to be more qualified and responsive when teaching in institutions so that students do not have to go for further coaching either in real life or online, he added.

Both experts suggested that students not treat digital education as the foremost way to learn, rather as an supplementary means of achieving knowledge.

Where does it go from here?

For the time being, YouTube tutorials are being lauded as excellent initiatives that have the potential to revolutionise the style of learning in our country.

But is it the future of learning? Critics say education is by all intents and purposes a two-way street, and YouTube videos are still one-way. Perhaps in time we shall see virtual education which facilitates students and teachers engaging each other online. That is still further down the road.